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Welcome to Carbon Brief’s DeBriefed. 
An essential guide to the week’s key developments relating to climate change.

This week

UK election

SURPRISE: UK prime minister Rishi Sunak announced in a “surprise move” that a general election will be held on 4 July, Business Green reported. It quoted him saying that “this election will take place at a time when the world is more dangerous than it has been since the end of the Cold War”, highlighting “national and energy security” as key issues. 

HEAVY DOWNPOUR: On the same day that Sunak made the announcement amid a downpour outside Number 10, a World Weather Attribution study covered by the Press Association found rainfall during storms across the UK and Ireland between October 2023 and March 2024 was made 20% more intense by global warming. The UK’s winters will continue to get wetter in future, according to the study, until the “world reduces emissions to net-zero”.

Oceans court ruling

MARINE PROTECTION: The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the world’s highest court dealing with the oceans, issued a “groundbreaking opinion” on Tuesday ruling that greenhouse gases are a pollutant that could cause “irreversible harm to the marine environment”, the New York Times said. It added that, while “not binding”, the opinion stated that, legally, nations must “take all necessary measures” to cut back emissions to prevent marine pollution.

‘HISTORIC’ VICTORY: Climate Change News reported that the coalition of small island nations responsible for the case called the ruling a “historic” victory. It quoted Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, saying the decision “will inform our future legal and diplomatic work in putting an end to the inaction that has brought us to the brink of an irreversible disaster”.

CLIMATE ‘VICTIMS’: Elsewhere, the Financial Times reported that a first-of-its-kind criminal case has been filed against the fossil-fuel company TotalEnergies and its shareholders by people who have lost family members or suffered harm in weather events made more extreme by climate change. The victims, along with non-profit groups, are accusing the company of criminal wrongdoing, including involuntary manslaughter, the FT said, adding that the company had not responded to its request for comment. 

Around the world

  • ANTARCTIC RECORD: The Press Association covered a study by the British Antarctic Survey finding record low sea ice levels around Antarctica last year “may have been influenced by climate change”.
  • INDIA HEATWAVE: The Indian capital New Delhi felt like a “furnace” and recorded temperatures “soaring” above 46C on Monday, with high temperatures continuing throughout a crucial week in the country’s elections, the Hindustan Times reported.
  • AUSTRALIAN COAL DEPENDENCE: Utility company Origin Energy will “delay the closure of Australia’s largest coal-fired power station”, Bloomberg reported, due to government concerns that there is not enough renewable energy to replace it.
  • GERMAN BACKSLIDING: Germany approved a “controversial” reform of its climate protection law, eliminating sectoral targets and reducing pressure on sectors such as transportation and buildings to meet them, according to Die Zeit.
  • EASTER ISLAND HERITAGE: The Guardian reported that the faces of Easter Island moai statues are being eroded due to “torrential rain”, quoting one conservator saying “we have much more extreme weather than before”.
  • US OVERCAPACITY CALLS: US treasury secretary Janet Yellen urged the EU and G7 countries to “communicate to China as a group” regarding concerns about clean-energy industry overcapacity, Reuters said.

52%

The percentage of children in Pakistan who will not be in school next week, as heatwaves force closures in the country’s most populous province, according to the Associated Press.


Latest climate research

  • A new study in Nature Communications underscored the importance of considering reliability and carbon pricing for the potential role of off-grid solar power in achieving universal household electricity access in Africa.
  • Video gamers are “a worthwhile potential audience” for climate communications, according to a new Climatic Change study, in contrast to “the stereotype of video gamers as disengaged or antisocial” on the topic.
  • New research in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that while “most of the Amazon does not show critical slowing down” of recovery from small disturbances, a “predicted increase in droughts could disrupt this balance”.

(For more, see Carbon Brief’s in-depth daily summaries of the top climate news stories on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.)

Captured

More than 90% of the land growing in genetically modified crops is in the US, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and India

A new Carbon Brief Q&A explored the continuing debate around the role of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in a world dealing with climate change. Some argue that new gene-editing technologies could help crops deal with extreme weather and boost nutrition, while others cite concerns around production, regulation and patenting of gene-edited crops. Much of current GMO production is concentrated in a small number of countries. The figure above shows that 91% of the land growing genetically modified crops is in the US, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and India. By contrast, genetically modified crops are not currently widely grown in the EU.

Spotlight

The future of China and Russia’s energy cooperation

This week, Carbon Brief examines energy’s role in Sino-Russian relations and how this could change as China moves towards its goal of carbon neutrality by 2060.

Vladimir Putin chose to visit China on 16-17 May, shortly after beginning another term as Russian president. 

Previously “sizeable” Sino-Russian energy cooperation has only grown since Russia’s war with Ukraine.

Russia leapfrogged Saudi Arabia in 2023 to become China’s largest supplier of oil. China is now Russia’s top purchaser of coal and crude oil, as well as a top three purchaser of oil products, liquefied “natural” gas (LNG) and pipeline gas.

‘Concrete plans to enhance cooperation’

The two sides published a joint statement during Putin’s visit, pledging to “consolidate Sino-Russian strategic energy cooperation…to safeguard [our] economic and energy security”.

It named oil, gas, LNG, coal and electricity as primary areas for cooperation, with renewables, hydrogen and the carbon market as “prospective” areas.

Progress on the Power to Siberia 2 gas pipeline negotiations, which could supply China with 50bn cubic metres of gas, was not mentioned.

Economic and geopolitical drivers

“Economic complementarities” have led to “robust” Russian imports of oil and gas to China.

Chinese reliance on substantial oil imports will likely “persist”, although future gas import requirements are more uncertain.

Dr Erica Downs, senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, told Carbon Brief she does not think it has been “definitively decided in China” what role gas will play in its energy transition, but that this role may be smaller than previously assumed.

She added that Russian oil is attractive to Chinese policymakers, as overland oil pipelines reduce China’s reliance on “vulnerable” sealane routes and Russia’s war with Ukraine allows Chinese buyers to get discounted rates on Russian barrels.

China’s increased oil and gas imports, following western sanctions on Russian oil, provided an “economic lifeline” to Russia in exchange for “securing cheap supplies”, according to the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI).  

Imports from a politically aligned partner are “vital” for China’s energy – and, therefore, economic – security, according to Chatham House

Not changing with the times

However, this partnership could wane. The UI study argued that China could adopt a “more cautious approach”, depending on geopolitical and economic developments.

Downs told Carbon Brief that, in the near-term, China will remain reliant on oil and gas imports, but that China “has to decide how much…they want to be dependent” on Russia.

If Chinese demand for fossil fuels falls, she said, “Russia becomes a lot less important to China as an economic partner”, although the political partnership remains useful to both.

Despite “buried” statements on clean energy in Sino-Russian agreements, Downs noted, the two countries are not increasing tangible cooperation on non-fossil fuel energy – in stark contrast to increasing Chinese clean energy cooperation with Saudi Arabia, for example.  She added:

“[Sino-Russian energy cooperation] is really a hydrocarbon story…I’m not really seeing the level of activity that I’m seeing [from] Chinese companies in other parts of the world in the renewable space.”

Watch, read, listen

‘BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY’: A Reuters investigation found that Japan, France, Germany, the US and other wealthy nations have reaped “billions of dollars” from a programme designed to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to extreme weather.

CLIMATE FUNDING: Climate Change News reported that “unsafe housing for cyclone survivors in Malawi, funded by a suspected fraudster”, adds weight to the need to operationalise the UN loss and damage fund. 

HUMAN FOLLY: HARDTalk interviewed UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chair Prof Jim Skea on whether the world has missed its chance to limit warming to 1.5C. 

Coming up

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DeBriefed is edited by Daisy Dunne. Please send any tips or feedback to debriefed@carbonbrief.org.
This is an online version of Carbon Brief’s weekly DeBriefed email newsletter. Subscribe for free here.

The post DeBriefed 24 May 2024: ‘Surprise’ UK election; Oceans court ruling; China and Russia’s fossil-fuel pact appeared first on Carbon Brief.

DeBriefed 24 May 2024: ‘Surprise’ UK election; Oceans court ruling; China and Russia’s fossil-fuel pact

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“Many people do not realize how rarely they actually use the things they own.” 

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Axel Hygglo
Axel Hellström, Head of Growth at Hygglo

Renting is often both cheaper and easier. Hygglo offers a modern and sustainable solution to access the items you need, without having to own them. The platform handles payments securely, and insurance is always included when you rent, allowing you to focus on using the item without worrying about potential damage. The selection is wide – from trailers to party supplies, outdoor gear, tools, and electronics.

In recent years, the rental market has changed significantly. Previously, around 2016 to 2018, many large retail companies attempted to enter the rental market, from Clas Ohlson to Filippa K. However, most of these companies have withdrawn their efforts.

“I hope this is only temporary and that more major players will try to adopt more circular models again,” says Axel Hellström, Head of Growth at Hygglo.

The renting business expands

At the same time, the growth of specialized rental providers, such as car, boat, and general item rentals like Hygglo, has increased significantly.

“The average person rents more today than in 2016, but this growth has primarily occurred through specialized platform providers instead of larger companies,” explains Axel.

One of the biggest challenges is to break the consumption pattern. For many, buying something feels easier, even though renting is often both cheaper and easier. Hygglo wants to show how much cheaper it is per usage hour to rent instead of buying and owning.

Big costs associated with ownership

There are many costs associated with ownership, both direct such as purchase cost and maintenance, and indirect such as storage space.

“This is why it is almost always cheaper to rent, even if it is an item you use several times a year,” Axel Hellström points out.

Many people also do not realize how rarely they actually use the things they own. Hygglo strives to make it clear how easy it is to rent. The items are often close at hand, and the process is smooth.

Try Hygglo!

The post “Many people do not realize how rarely they actually use the things they own.”  appeared first on GoClimate Blog.

“Many people do not realize how rarely they actually use the things they own.” 

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DeBriefed: Deadly heat grips globe; Cost of cutting ‘green crap’ in UK; Rewilding with beavers

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Welcome to Carbon Brief’s DeBriefed.
An essential guide to the week’s key developments relating to climate change.

This week

Global heatwave

SOUTH ASIA: Extended and severe heatwaves that continue to grip 50% of northwest India have claimed at least 110 lives and caused 40,000 to suffer from suspected heatstroke, the Hindustan Times reported. Delhi recorded its highest ever minimum temperature in a 55- year record this week, when night-time temperatures did not drop below 35.2C, the Hindu reported. Reuters reported that a senior government official said “Indian cities have become heat traps” due to unbalanced urban growth reducing water availability.

EAST ASIA: Meanwhile, state-run newspaper China Daily reported that the nation is “experiencing more frequent and intense heatwaves due to global warming”, according to China’s National Climate Centre. It added that the average heatwave starting date has advanced by 2.5 days per decade. The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported that extreme weather has continued in China this week, including deadly torrential rain and drought conditions.

DEADLY PILGRIMAGE: In the Middle East, more than 1,000 hajj pilgrims have reportedly died amid scorching heat in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Sky News reported. Agence France-Presse said that temperatures reached 51.8C in Mecca as around 1.8 million people took part in the “days-long, mostly outdoor” pilgrimage. It added that the death toll is expected to rise further as many continue to search for family members.

US FURNACE: Tens of millions of people in the US were under dangerous heat warnings this week as some cities faced record-breaking temperatures, the Associated Press reported. The Guardian reported that about 80% of the country’s population are experiencing “a kind of heatwave not seen in decades”, which brought prolonged periods of temperatures above 32.2C, “under a weather phenomenon known as a heat dome”.

‘BRUTAL’ EUROPE: After registering Europe’s highest recorded temperature of 48.8C in 2021, Sicily is again having to turn away tourists as “brutal heatwaves” have led to crops dying and farm animals facing slaughter, reported the Times. Elsewhere in Europe, a wildfire near Athens, Greece forced dozens to flee their homes, reported Reuters. Officials said the fire was the result of arson and spread quickly in hot, dry conditions, the newswire added.

Around the world

  • G7 DROPPED: The G7 group of major economies has pledged to speed up their transition away from fossil fuels at a summit in Italy, Reuters reported. It added that activists were unhappy at the pace of progress.
  • RECORD RENEWABLES: Wind and solar combined added more new energy to the global mix than any other source for the first time in history in 2023, according to Carbon Brief analysis of newly released data.
  • PEAKING CHINA: China has reduced power from fossil fuels and boosted solar and hydro, “feeding hopes that the world’s biggest polluter may have peaked emissions years before its own deadline”, Bloomberg reported. Carbon Brief analysis in May found China may have peaked its emissions in 2023.
  • CONFLICT DAMAGE: A UN report found that Israel’s assault on Gaza has caused environmental damage, “deeply harming people’s health, food security and Gaza’s resilience”, according to Reuters.
  • NATURE WIN: After months of stagnation, the EU’s nature restoration law was voted through by ministers at the EU council, the Financial Times reported.
  • STRANDED BY SLIDES: Al Jazeera reported that landslides triggered by heavy rain have left hundreds of thousands of people stranded and at least 15 dead in India and Bangladesh.

$1.1-1.3 trillion

The amount of climate finance developing countries at Bonn want developed countries to provide to them every year, according to Climate Home News.


Latest climate research

  • New research in Environmental Research Letters suggested that the Arctic will be “ice-free” – that is, where sea ice extent drops below one million square kilometres – at the end of summer when global warming reaches between 1.5C and 2.2C above pre-industrial levels.
  • Ocean-based carbon dioxide removal techniques such as ocean alkalinity enhancement have been “overlooked”, a research paper in Environmental Research Letters argued.
  • The extreme heat that hit southwestern US, Mexico and Central America from May to June this year was 35 times more likely and 1.4C hotter due to climate change, new analysis by the World Weather Attribution network found.

(For more, see Carbon Brief’s in-depth daily summaries of the top climate news stories on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.)

Captured

Cutting the 'green crap' has added £22bn to UK energy bills

New Carbon Brief analysis by Dr Simon Evans revealed that the UK’s energy bills were £22bn higher over the past decade than they would have been if successive Conservative governments had not cut the “green crap” by rolling back climate policies for areas such as insulating homes, new home building standards and onshore wind and solar growth. The chart above shows how lack of progress on various climate measures has added to UK energy bills from 2015-2024. The cutting back on green measures has also raised net gas imports by a third, making the UK more reliant on gas imports and leaving customers more exposed to high gas prices, the analysis said. Carbon Brief is continuing to track where UK parties stand on climate change and energy ahead of the country’s general election.

Spotlight

Can beavers help the UK adapt to climate change?

This week, Carbon Brief looks at the evidence on the potential pros and pitfalls of reintroducing beavers to help deal with rising climate risks in the UK.

From Narnia to the Ice Age franchise, beavers have a spot as a charismatic, comical and – until recent years – somewhat mythical animal in British popular culture.

Beavers were hunted to extinction in Britain 400 years ago, and to near extinction in Europe. Memory of their presence in Britain survives in place names, such as Beverley Brook in London.

Given their reputation, it is perhaps surprising that they have also been called “climate heroes”, “ecosystem engineers” and, more recently, “heatwave heroes”. 

Such labels come from beavers’ ability to alter the landscapes around them, offering benefits such as lowering flood risk or providing new habitats for biodiversity.

It is these benefits that have seen beavers reintroduced to some areas of England and Scotland.

Climate and biodiversity benefits

Beavers are a keystone species, which means they have an inordinately large impact on their natural environment, with the ability to define their ecosystem.

They use their huge front teeth to fell trees, building dams and lodges,which subsequently hold back huge volumes of water to create a wetland habitat.

The animals do this to create their ideal environment – one with deep water so they can hide from predators. However, they also inadvertently create an oasis for a variety of wildlife.

European beaver on the River Tay, Scotland, UK.
European beaver on the River Tay, Scotland, UK. Credit: Gregg Parsons / Alamy Stock Photo.

Earlier this week, the Guardian reported that, after living in the wild for 15 years in Scotland, beavers create the “perfect conditions” for endangered native water voles to flourish.

Prof Richard Brazier, director of the Centre for Resilience in Environment, Water and Waste at the University of Exeter, said the main climate benefits beavers can provide were enhancing water and carbon storage. He told Carbon Brief:

“Beaver ponds store a lot of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. Beavers coppice [chop down] species like willow. When they regrow, it enhances carbon storage in the landscape.”

Climate change is making many types of extreme weather events, including droughts, more likely and more intense.

Beaver wetlands are known to remain oases in otherwise cracked, dry land. The water stored in beaver ponds slowly seeps into the surrounding soil during dry periods, keeping the area green.

In the US, research found that wetland habitats created by beavers are resistant to wildfires because the area is simply too wet to burn.

Perhaps the most well-known link between beavers and climate adaptation is their alleviation of flood risks.

In March, the UK government’s Environment Agency reported that, after five years of beaver activity in an enclosed area, the impact of flooding was reduced in Spains Hall Estate, Essex.

In Devon, scientists last month concluded a 10-year study finding that beavers are “having a positive impact on flood and drought alleviation” by storing 24m litres of water and reducing storm flows by 30% during heavy rainfall, keeping downstream homes safer from floods.

Human-animal conflict

Other studies on beavers have warned that friction between the animals and adjacent landowners must be a central consideration for successful reintroduction.

Under certain circumstances, their natural engineering can interfere with human infrastructure and farming.

Some farmers are concerned that beaver activity causes flooding and damage to crops. Others worry that tree felling could cause damage to houses nearby.

Occasionally, beaver burrows can collapse, and damage property or machinery nearby.

Brazier told Carbon Brief that “tensions can arise” when humans “try to resist the natural instinct of the beaver to create deep water pools”. He added:

“If there are downsides, these relate to the ways in which, by building dams, beavers put water back on floodplains, when humans tend to want to remove this water, such as for agriculture. But these low-lying landscapes are floodplains, they are meant to be underwater periodically, and indeed, whether beavers are reintroduced or not, they will be more inundated by flooding in the future, under climate change scenarios.”

Beaver releases

Despite opposition from some groups, momentum has been gradually building for beavers’ return to the wild.

It is still illegal to reintroduce beavers in Britain without a licence.

In 2009, illegal releases were made in Tayside, Scotland and Devon, England. It is unknown where the beavers came from. 

The first licence for beaver reintroduction was given for an enclosed area in Ham Fen in Kent in 2001.

In 2009, the first licensed reintroduction of beavers into the wild occurred in Knapdale, Scotland, with the animals shipped in from Norway.

In 2021, the government allowed the illegally released beavers in Devon to remain wild.

Beavers are also being reintroduced into cities. They were reintroduced in Enfield, north London in 2022 – and it was there that the first kit was born in London last summer.

Beavers were declared a native species in 2016 in Scotland and in 2022 in England.

However, the UK government is yet to introduce a national strategy for beaver reintroduction – “missing a huge opportunity to deliver profound benefits”, according to Brazier.

Watch, read, listen

MOVIE MAGIC: Showing in UK and Irish cinemas, Wilding tells the story of a couple who in 2001 handed over their 4,000-year-old estate and struggling farm to nature.

STORY TIME: With the help of woolly mammoths and dinosaurs, Christine Shearer and illustrator Kaz Clarke have published “The Everywhere Atom: A Journey Through The Carbon Cycle and Climate Change”, telling the story of the carbon cycle to children.
NATURE VOTE: With the UK general election two weeks away, Carbon Brief’s Dr Simon Evans spoke to Radio 4’s Rare Earth about how climate and the environment feature in the main political parties’ manifestos.

Coming up

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DeBriefed is edited by Daisy Dunne. Please send any tips or feedback to debriefed@carbonbrief.org.
This is an online version of Carbon Brief’s weekly DeBriefed email newsletter. Subscribe for free here.

The post DeBriefed: Deadly heat grips globe; Cost of cutting ‘green crap’ in UK; Rewilding with beavers appeared first on Carbon Brief.

DeBriefed: Deadly heat grips globe; Cost of cutting ‘green crap’ in UK; Rewilding with beavers

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Analysis: Wind and solar added more to global energy than any other source in 2023

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In 2023, wind and solar combined added more new energy to the global mix than any other source, for the first time in history, according to Carbon Brief analysis of newly released data.

Nevertheless, record global demand for energy saw coal and oil use also reaching new highs last year, the Energy Institute Statistical Review of World Energy 2024 finds.

This pushed global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to another record in 2023, the world’s first full year with no impact from the coronavirus pandemic, the data shows.

Key figures from the report include:

  • Global energy demand reached a record high of 620 exajoules (EJ) in 2023, with annual growth of 2.0%, slightly above the 1.5% per year average for the last decade.
  • Wind and solar together were the largest source of new energy in 2023, adding 4.9EJ or 40% of the increase overall. The rest of the net increase came from oil (+4.8EJ, 39% of the increase), coal (+2.5EJ, 20%), nuclear (+0.4EJ, 4%) and other non-hydro renewables (+0.5EJ, 4%), while gas stayed flat and hydro declined (-0.9EJ, -8%).
  • Global energy use from coal grew 1.6% year-on-year to a record high of 164EJ, passing the previous record of 162EJ, set a decade earlier in 2014.
  • Global energy use from oil grew 2.5% to a record high of 196EJ, comfortably above the previous high of 193EJ set in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Global energy use from gas was unchanged at 144EJ. It has now flatlined for two years since the global energy crisis, due to Russia cutting off gas supplies to Europe.
  • Global electricity generation from coal grew by 189 terawatt hours (TWh, 1.8%) year-on-year to a record high of 10,513TWh. This was despite wind and solar adding a record 537TWh of new generation, up a combined 15.7% year-on-year to 3,967TWh.
  • The new highs for coal and oil use drove global emissions to another record, with releases from fossil fuel burning, industrial processes, methane and flaring topping 40bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) for the first time.

With global temperatures inching closer to the 1.5C limit, time is running out to peak and then decline emissions in order to avoid dangerous levels of warming. The new figures show the world is still going in the wrong direction, with new records for coal, oil and CO2 emissions.

Yet there are hints that, beyond today’s data for 2023, the world could be turning a corner, as emissions from China – and the global electricity system – may already have peaked.

This is the second edition of the statistical review published by the Energy Institute. Carbon Brief covered earlier editions, published by oil major BP, in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Wind and solar make history

One of the most striking details in this year’s report is that wind and solar, when combined, added more new energy to the global mix in 2023 than any other source, as shown in the figure below.

The combined 4.9EJ of new energy from wind and solar in 2023 accounted for 40% of the overall increase in global demand, ahead of oil (39%) and coal (20%).

This is the first time in history that these newer forms of renewable energy have outpaced each of the fossil fuels, which remain the world’s dominant sources of energy.

Annual change in global energy demand in 2023, by source, exajoules.
Annual change in global energy demand in 2023, by source, exajoules. Source: Carbon Brief analysis of Energy Institute Statistical Review of World Energy 2024. Chart by Carbon Brief.

Still, the significant increases in demand for energy from oil (+4.8EJ) and coal (+2.5EJ), shown in the figure above, resulted in yet another increase in global CO2 emissions.

The drop in hydro output – also shown above – resulted from major droughts around the world in 2023, particularly in China. This shortfall was largely met by increased coal power.

Along with the continued rapid expansion of wind and solar, a recovery in hydro generation from last year’s lows is expected to contribute to a peak in emissions from the global power sector.

While global demand for oil and gas is not expected to peak until later this decade, reductions in coal use could still drive a near-term peak in global CO2 emissions.

Record highs for coal and oil

The record 4.9EJ of new energy added by wind and solar in 2023 marks a continuation of their rapid growth over the past decade, shown in the figure below.

In combination, wind and solar now contribute 37EJ to the global energy system, up 15% year-on-year. Their combined output has grown at an average 17% per year for the past decade, taking them from a total of just 8EJ in 2013 to the 2023 figure of 37EJ.

As the figure below shows, wind and solar overtook nuclear power in 2021 and, in combination, they are likely to overtake hydropower this year.

Still, it is clear from the figure that the global energy system remains heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

At a new record of 196EJ in 2023, oil is the world’s largest source of energy, accounting for nearly a third of the total (32%) energy mix and having grown nearly every year for the past half-century.

Coal is in second place, at 164EJ in 2023 or 26% of the mix. While this, too, marks a new record, global coal demand has been flat for the past decade. Indeed, at one point it seemed that the previous 2014 record of 162EJ might have marked a lasting peak for the fuel.

Global electricity generation by fuel, terawatt hours, 1990-2023.
Global electricity generation by fuel, terawatt hours, 1990-2023. Source: Energy Institute Statistical Review of World Energy 2024. Chart by Carbon Brief.

Notably, the figure above shows that global gas demand has now flatlined for the past two years. While the future trajectory for the fuel remains uncertain, this recent trend illustrates why the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in late 2022 that the “golden age of gas” had been brought to an end by the global energy crisis, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier that year.

In total, fossil fuels met some 81.5% of global primary energy demand in 2023, as shown in the figure below. While this is a record low, it is only around 4 percentage points lower than a decade earlier – and 5 percentage points below the level seen in 1990.

Share of global primary energy demand from fossil fuels and clean energy, %, 1965-2023.
Share of global primary energy demand from fossil fuels and clean energy, %, 1965-2023. Source: Energy Institute Statistical Review of World Energy 2024. Chart by Carbon Brief.

Energy Institute chief executive Nick Wayth told a pre-release press briefing that the data could be interpreted to suggest that the global energy transition “has not even started”:

“At the global level, today’s new data provides little encouragement in terms of global climate change mitigation. Clean energy is still not even meeting the entirety of demand growth and therefore at a global level not displacing fossil fuels. Arguably, the transition has not even started.”

However, this interpretation hides a “lopsided” picture for different parts of the world, Wayth said. “Fossil demand is likely to be peaking” in the major economies of Europe and the US, he explained, even as countries in the Global South are “still carbonising”.

Electricity system in flux

To date, the energy transition has had the most dramatic impact on the global electricity system, as the figure below shows. Wind and solar generation has grown from a combined 774TWh in 2013 to nearly 4,000TWh in 2023 – more than quintupling in a decade.

Together, wind and solar accounted for 13% of global electricity supplies in 2023, up from 3% a decade earlier. Still, rapidly-rising demand for electricity, which is expected to accelerate as heat, transport and industry are increasingly electrified, means that coal power reached a record high of 10,513TWh in 2023.This cements its position as the single-largest contributor to the mix.

Global primary energy demand by fuel, exajoules, 1965-2023.
Global primary energy demand by fuel, exajoules, 1965-2023. Source: Energy Institute Statistical Review of World Energy 2024. Chart by Carbon Brief.

Low-carbon sources of clean energy, including nuclear and renewables, now make up a record high 39% of global electricity supplies, ahead of coal at 35%. With gas making up a further 23% of the mix, the majority of the world’s electricity is still being generated with fossil fuels.

The expansion of wind and solar is expected to continue and even accelerate – particularly if the global goal of tripling renewable capacity by 2030 is to be met.

Combined with a recovery in global hydropower output, following a series of major droughts, this could force fossil fuel power into the beginning of structural decline in 2024.

Record CO2 emissions

Taking all of the pieces together, the record for coal and oil use along with flat demand for gas means global CO2 emissions reached a new high in 2023, the Energy Institute’s data shows. This is despite the record amounts of new energy added by wind and solar power.

In total, global emissions from fossil fuels, industrial processes, methane and flaring breached 40GtCO2e for the first time in 2023, as shown in the figure below.

China’s emissions grew by 708m tonnes of CO2e (MtCO2e, 6%) year-on-year, accounting for 85% of the net increase globally (829MtCO2e). India’s emissions also grew strongly, up 257MtCO2e (9%), while emissions in the US and EU fell by 140MtCO2 (2.7%) and 188MtCO2e (6.6%) respectively.

Global emissions from energy use, industrial processes, methane and flaring, billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent, 1990-2023.
Global emissions from energy use, industrial processes, methane and flaring, billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent, 1990-2023. Source: Energy Institute Statistical Review of World Energy 2024. Chart by Carbon Brief.

The Energy Institute estimate confirms earlier analysis from the Global Carbon Project (GCP) and the IEA, both of which found fossil fuel CO2 emissions had reached a new record high in 2023.

However, GCP estimates including CO2 emissions from land use change put 2023 just below the record set in 2019, with the total having been roughly flat for a decade.

Looking ahead, the key question for global emissions is whether China has already peaked and, if so, how quickly its emissions begin to fall. If it has, then it would add to continued emissions reductions in developed countries and likely outweigh increases elsewhere.

The post Analysis: Wind and solar added more to global energy than any other source in 2023 appeared first on Carbon Brief.

Analysis: Wind and solar added more to global energy than any other source in 2023

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